They are among a growing number of researchers probing the acoustic properties of ancient sites. Their research, presented this week in Vancouver, British Columbia at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, shows that ancient peoples created sophisticated sonic illusions in ceremonial spaces ranging from Mayan temples to Stonehenge.
Humanity’s fascination with sound runs deep. In Utah’s Horseshoe Canyon, ancient people drew artwork where echoes are loudest. Around the world, Stone Age artists typically painted in caverns with the greatest reverberation.
Lubman, a consultant in acoustics, speculates that the association between art and echoes was originally unintended. Instead, ancient artists painted on solid rock because porous rock absorbed their pigments. Solid rock created better echoes.
“Such resonant spaces inspire singing,” Lubman said.